Friday 27 May 2022

Fragile Empire


I am rereading Ben Judah's Fragile Empire (2013). It's very topical and I recommend it highly. This is a passage about the 2004 Kiev revolution.

"The protesters won as a million people flooded onto the streets. As Putin’s men fled humiliated, the Bush administration and those that dreamt of a European Union that can dominate over Moscow in former ‘fraternal republics’, which in Brussels had begun to be called ‘the shared neighbourhood’, were delighted. The Arabs were vomiting up the neo-conservative ‘Freedom Agenda’ but in Eastern Europe something that looked like the good old days of 1989 was under way. For a moment Ukraine forgot that it is as overshadowed by Russia as Mexico is by the USA and fantasized about being in NATO. London, Brussels and Washington indulged them.

"Moscow was aghast. Into this, the deepest of Russia’s historical wounds, the Americans were keen to push the NATO alliance. Ukrainians see this as their right as an independent country, but real horror gripped the Kremlin. ‘This was our 9/11,’ says Pavlovsky – or a moment Moscow realized its defences simply weren’t there. Rewinding back to 1991, when the intelligentsia clapped as Yeltsin cut loose the other SSRs, as the country as a whole shrugged off the independence of the Ukraine – because nobody wanted to pay to keep these people – there was an overriding conviction that it didn’t matter if they became independent. People thought, ‘They will just stay where they are.’ The foreign policy establishment thought an expensive empire would be converted into a cost-effective sphere of influence, not truly independent. Had Russians thought at the time that Ukrainians could join a NATO alliance led by George W. Bush they would have gone to war to stop it exiting the USSR.

"Not only did Putin’s foreign policy machine look completely kaput, but key figures in the establishment, the same men who were supposed to be keeping his regime afloat, failed as well. The outcome in Kiev was considered so vital that the Kremlin assigned its most experienced agents to the task. None other than Dmitry Medvedev..."

This passage about Boris Yeltsin in retirement is also interesting. I read that Vladimir Putin threatened to reveal Yeltsin's financial sins if he criticised his successor. That sounds likely.
"....[The former prime minister Mikhail] Kasyanov began visiting his old mentor, the ageing and ill Yeltsin, in his retirement dacha. It was a ‘golden cage’, which Yeltsin was certain was bugged:
" ‘He had a very high quality of life in the official state dacha, with official state cars. But he had bound himself not to criticize Putin. He was within a year extremely disappointed in him. He was completely against all the moves he was doing against the freedom of the press, to the parliament, to the governors, violating the constitution but pretending it had remained. This truly pained Yeltsin. He was extremely torn, morally and psychologically, by what Putin had become. And this inner torment I believe was one of the reasons that contributed to his death.’"

1 comment:

  1. I think the Americans were more Cheer Leaders than organises in 2004 and later. As for Mr Putin - a thief and a murderer. The ironic thing is that the "liberal" experiment in the Ukraine was falling apart, President Z, was becoming increasingly unpopular. Then Mr Putin (yes Mr Putin) saved it. Now anyone who casts doubt on the "liberal" policies can be presented as a supporter of Mr Putin's invasion. We are where we are - thanks to Mr Putin's brutality, and stupidity.